Last week I posted an article highlighting how you could game Klout. In my post and the subsequent commentary I argued that:
- Klout’s model of scoring seems to be based predominantly on levels of network activity which is a rather primitive approach to “measuring influence”.
- Klout scores seem to fluctuate on daily basis, influence and/or authority can not be that volatile.
- Most importantly, there should be a clear distinction between, “noise”, “activity” and “influence”. If someone is very active and noisy, it does not necessarily mean that they are influential. Joe Fernandez should pay close attention to the following word and its definition. (Troll: “A troll is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.”)
- A troll is a nuisance, not an influencer.
In this post I will highlight a few other shockingly inaccurate cases which demonstrate how ineffective and flawed Klout scores are. I am sure Klout’s PR team would try to claim that my previous revelation was an isolated case. And talking of PR, notice in all their corporate comms Klout uses, in fact, overuses the word “science”, “scientific” and “science team”, here are a few examples. Frank Luntz anyone?
Say hello to @mi, a lonely Twitter profile which doesn’t have any followers, it hasn’t been listed and it doesn’t even follow any one, see screenshot:
Go on, have a guess & be very generous, what is @mi’s Klout score?
This is absolutely ridiculous! How can an account with two tweets, no other profile signals and a default “egg” avatar score 73 out of 100 for “health food”? Let’s compare this to Dr Weil’s account who has 237,426 followers and has been listed 4,423 times and is influential about “health” and “diet”, see below.
Is this how science works? Should advertisers use Klout (as it is) as a scientific barometer? You decide…
Who is more influential on “social media”, Evan Williams or Joe Fernandez?
I would be very interested to find out who you think is more influential on social media, Evan Williams the co-founder of Twitter or Joe Fernandez co-founder of Klout. I am not sure about you but I think Evan Williams is much more influential when it comes to social media as compared to Joe Fernandez.
Poll – Evan Williams vs. Joe Fernandez – Please vote.
Please use the above poll to vote, I will publish the results once the the poll is over.
For now, let’s resort to Klout’s version of the story and find out who is more influential. Actually before that, let’s take a look at their profile stats:
- 4,832 Tweets
- Following 654
- Followers 8,098
- Listed 792
- 6,333 Tweets
- Following 1,346
- Followers 1,395,276
- Listed 17,337
Joe Fernandez’s Klout
As you can see in the screenshot below, Joe scores 72 out of 100 and is influential about social media based on Klout’s assessment.
Evan Williams’s Klout
Evan Williams who co-founded Twitter, one of the biggest social media networks, is less influential about social media as compared to Joe Fernandez. If you take a look at http://klout.com/#/ev/topics you will find that social media is the forth topic in the list.
Now if I was an advertiser who didn’t know who Joe or Evan are and therefore relied on using Klout as a “measure of influence” I will probably target Joe instead of Evan because he has a much higher score. Would I be right though? Would my money be well spent? Would my targeting be accurate? For me the answer is a big no.
Doing it Las Vegas style
On 30th September 2010, Adage.com reported that Palms Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas will be using Klout to “allow high-ranking influencers to experience Palms’ impressive set of amenities in hopes that these influencers will want to communicate their positive experience to their followers.”
“You’ve just walked up to the front desk at the Palms Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and given your name. The clerk pulls up your information and right there next to your reservation is a number that will determine what kind of treatment you’re going to get. Will you be invited to hang out in the exclusive Hugh Hefner Villa? Maybe. It all depends on that number, your Klout Score — a ranking that will follow you around, whether you know it or not, and tell the world your worth as a consumer … and eventually, as a friend.”
Based on the above scenario, if @mi or @_borgeCollective or any other spammer/scammer turns up at Palms Hotel with a Klout score of 80, would it be right to give them a “different (am assuming better) treatment than the another customer who has a Klout score of let’s say 50?
Wouldn’t that expose businesses to a new kind of threat? A threat where people who manipulate Klout get better deals and treatment at the expense of truly loyal customers?
Questioning Klout’s ethics
The cases I highlighted above and in my previous post clearly prove how unreliable Klout is. I am sure Klout already recognizes that their scoring system is not accurate and needs a lot of work. I have a few questions and I would love to hear answers from all stakeholders:
- Is it ethical to sell and promote a premature product knowing that it does not deliver accurate results?
- After knowing that Klout is inaccurate, what do Subway, HP, WWF, Pepsi, Audi, Nudie Jeans think of Klout? (Note: All links point to Klout Perks for relevant brands.)
Everything I have found leads me to believe that Klout is far from accurate and it shouldn’t be marketed because it can be easily games, manipulated and there are fundamental errors in the way it tries to measure influence. If Klout want’s run trials with a certain brands then those brands need to know the real deal about Klout instead of the spin and PR talk.
To restore confidence, Klout should clarify things instead of trying to simply get away with “our algorithms are being constantly improved” responses. Furthermore, I propose the following two features that might help Klout in its journey towards unattainable perfection.
- Introduce a -K score – give weight to votes originating from influencers who are influential in closely related topics. (Yes, it is slightly tricky and prone to abuse but I am sure you science team can get it right.).
- Integrate Radian6 or something similar and look for metrics outside the currently connected social platforms specially popularity and sentiment metrics from forums, blog posts, articles etc. For example, @mi and @_borgCollective do not exist outside the “connected networks”. If a profile doesn’t have a wider social footprint then it should be treated totally differently.
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